Column

The Following Things Should Be Virtual Forever

The Democratic National Convention is just one example of things better experienced at a remove

Senator Kamala Harris speaks via Zoom during a Women for Biden event on May 21, 2020. Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images

There’s no actual Democratic National Convention taking place this week and I couldn’t be happier. To prevent the spread of Covid-19, Democrats and (shockingly) Republicans have decided to stage the bulk of their respective conventions virtually. I promise you that, even when you include The 2020 Factor, this will be the best summer of conventions you ever have to endure. No endless clapping every time a speaker pauses to take a breath. No toothy delegates in boater hats who look like they stepped off of a dollar bill. No Republicans singing in unison… SHUDDER… to “Sweet Caroline.” We’re free from all that dime-store pageantry this year.

We should be free from it EVERY election year, in fact. To that end, I have devised a list of things that should be virtual from here on out. This is the year we discovered what is truly ESSENTIAL in America (Restaurants and restaurant workers! Delivery workers! Nurses! The mail!) and what is not (The police!). So consider this a definitive list of what can be jettisoned once we all see each other on the other side of the virus.

  • Political conventions. A major party hasn’t held a brokered convention in America since 1952. Since then, these conventions have transitioned from being necessary off-sites where the major parties select their candidates to being week-long infomercials. We know who the candidates will be. We know there’ll be an anodyne THEME to the proceedings. In the case of the Democrats, this week’s theme is “Uniting America,” which sounds like something Mayor Pete wrote down on a Post-it and then did a little fist pump over when he saw it. We know that we’re gonna have to endure a parade of uncharismatic opening act speakers (Amy Klobuchar tonight) before we get the headliners (Michelle Obama an hour-plus later). Do we NEED any of this shit to take place in person, at The NBA Arena With An Open Calendar Of Your Choice? Reader, we do not. In fact…
  • ALL conventions. Get rid of all of them! Take it from someone who’s been to Comic-Con. Three times, no less. We don’t need Comic-Con. Every fucking day on the internet is Comic-Con now. I’ve seen people sleeping on sidewalks outside Hall H in San Diego just so that they can watch a trailer that’ll be online 60 seconds after it premieres on stage. And that’s a FUN convention. I’ve been to normal conventions too. I’ve been to ad industry conventions. I went to the Values Voter Summit one year. Outside of happy hour, these conventions serve no functional purpose. Whatever contacts you meet at one will want your money and little else. These are showcases where major industries and industry leaders get to jerk themselves off for a long weekend. Why witness it happen in person when you can watch ads at home for free?
  • Cocktails with people you didn’t REALLY want to get cocktails with. I know I’m a privileged brat because the main difference in my life since quarantine began is that I’m 20% more anti-social than I used to be. Having kids used to be a fantastic excuse to flake out on other people, but my kids are all over the age of eight now. They can eat and shit and go to e-school by themselves. They don’t even need me when they’re SICK anymore. They know where the fabled Barf Bowl is in the kitchen cabinet. Hence, I can’t use them to weasel out of social engagements anymore. Ah, but I can use the rona to get out of them. I’m supposed to, in fact. If a third-string friend of mine wants to get a drink with me now and I don’t want to dedicate an entire night to it… and I don’t… then PRESTO! A 10-minute Zoom and I don’t have to see that person again for like a year. It’s like getting out of jury duty.
  • Certain doctor’s appointments. Obviously if you have a boil on your face that’s discharging vanilla pudding, a doctor has to examine that up close and in person. Poor doctor. But not every medical appointment requires face-to-face interaction. I’ve gotten prescriptions written virtually. I got my medicinal weed card virtually (I have a bad back!). I’ve even gone to therapy virtually. All of those appointments have been both effective and convenient. Plus my doctors got their money. Everybody wins. I have no interest in going BACK to schlepping across town and sitting in a waiting room for 45 minutes just so that I can get a script for an anti-inflammatory. You already know how wasteful the American health care system is. In-person appointments only add to that waste. From now on I’m only using them for exams, tests, and brain surgeries.
  • MEETINGS. I interviewed McLaren F1 team president Zak Brown for Road & Track during the pandemic, and when quarantine hit he had the exact same epiphany that 90% of white collar America had: “When we all fly in all the team bosses to travel to one team meeting, we spend a small fortune,” he told me. “Now, we do Zoom calls. You hang up the phone and you get back to something else that you’re working on. You don’t spend the rest of your afternoon traveling. We probably save hundreds of thousands of dollars on each meeting. We all got off the phone the first time and went, ‘Maybe we should do these more often.’” HELL FUCKING YEAH YOU SHOULD! I’ve worked remotely for over a decade now. There’s never been a time when I’ve said to myself, “Boy I wish I had been to that meeting in person.” Meetings are Satan’s handicraft.
  • Saturday Night Live. I watched the SNL From Home season finale in May and it was the best episode of SNL I had watched wire-to-wire since I was in, like, college (I’m 43). The show’s entire format was revitalized once it was no longer confined to Studio 8H. There’s no danger in doing that show live anymore. Every “dangerous” moment is conceived at 3 a.m. on a Tuesday night at Rock Center and then strategically neutered over three more days and nights of table reads and needless rewrites. You get your surprise celebrity cameo in the cold open. You get a flubbed line in the monologue. The musical guest gets caught lip-syncing. And one cast member cracks up when they’re not supposed to. That’s the live package and it blows. But pre-tape the whole show, without cue cards but with actual editing? MAGIC HAPPENS.
  • Church. Excuse me but is God not everywhere?
  • The crowd at Celtics games. I’ve watched all the sports since they’ve returned and, between baseball, hockey, soccer, and basketball, the NBA bubble league is easily the best of the bunch. This is because of the product on the court, but also because the NBA is using Zoom stands for every game, with a wall of fans in virtual “seats” behind the action. I adjusted to the Zoom crowd within, like, 10 minutes. Unlike actual in-stadium fans, these fans are paying attention! At all times! They can’t be distracted by burrito cannons or kiss cams or any of the manufactured distractions that gives the average NBA game all the ambience of a trip to Chuck E. Cheese. In the case of the Celtics, I have no problem locking fans out of the arena FOREVER. Vast improvement.
  • PTA meetings. School needs to be in person when it’s safe to do it (that would NOT be right now). But PTA meetings? Yeah, no I’m fine making those virtual forever. Sorry my camera is off. I swear I’m not away from the computer making soft tacos for myself. No sir.

Columnist at GEN. Co-founder, Defector. Author of Point B.

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